Wednesday, October 09, 2013

MAD: ID - co-creating the future of local food

last week, i participated in a co-creation event called MAD:ID (food (mad in danish), identity and design) at a place called spinderihallerne - a converted factory that's coworking, museum, café and event space all in one. madværket, a collective of local food producers (farmers, berry producers, breweries and even a whiskey maker), was behind the event. they were all there, along with politicians, people like me who do communications and happen to be interested in food (and who isn't?), bloggers, cooks, chefs, designers and events producers.

we were divided into several groups and asked to workshop various questions for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. throughout the day, we were fed these gorgeous little tidbits of local produce made by local chefs, who had spent a couple of days slow cooking pork bellies and making hawthorne sirups. an area woman who both grows unusual herbs and forages for them provided all of the beautiful flowers and herbs that decorated the food. she was also a participant in one of the groups.

my group was given the question of how to make the unusual and often wasted cuts of meat marketable and appealing to an enlightened audience. we discussed ways of enlightening that audience (who we determined to be busy families who cared about the food they put on the table), as well as down to the details of packaging and even the whole supply chain - as one of the premises was that it would be grass-fed, organic, local beef, slaughtered at a nearby butcher and then somehow made available to a discerning consumer. so, as you might imagine, we talked a lot about the whole rising trend of farm to table, wherein people want a relationship with their food. we actually discussed ways of giving calves instagram accounts and facebook pages, so people could follow the life of their beef, quite literally, from when it was born.

one thing our group was missing during the morning was one of the farmers. we were a group of rather affluent women with lofty notions of what we'd like to put on the table and how it should be delivered to our doors. but we didn't really know that much about the reality of getting the steer to the butcher and from there to further processing if that were required. in the afternoon, we were joined by a down-to-earth beef farmer (who is also a politician), who helped us anchor our ideas a bit more in reality. i think that helped us and we would have been more productive had he been with us from the beginning.

other groups worked on topics like how to expand local food tourism opportunities, since there are a lot of exciting things happening in our area food-wise, at least where production of interesting, local food products are concerned. another group worked on connecting foragers to chefs and i learned that you don't have to have foraged in an enormous amount for it to be interesting to local chefs, you just have to establish contact and let them know when you've found something interesting (e.g. mushrooms). in the presentation round, i found myself wishing i'd been in that group. a couple of groups worked on the question of making obscure cuts of meat more commercially viable, as we did and interestingly came up with solutions we didn't - like starting already in school, teaching the very youngest children the importance of using the whole animal and not letting any go to waste. that makes good sense to me.

in the middle of the day, after lunch, we took a break to listen to a lecture by the utterly amazing dutch eating designer marije vogelzang. i was very disappointed when her lecture ended, as i could have gone on listening to her and being inspired by her for at least another hour. i came home and ordered her book immediately. she has put together the most amazing food-related projects that are part art, part happening and part design, with a whole lot of history and thought and emotion thrown in. she will make you think about eating in whole new ways.

it seems that co-creation is the new black, but it's risky business. you don't really know what will come of it and you have to be open to that. they opened the doors to this event (which was free) and hoped that everyone came with their own particular angle and view on things, as well as a willingness to share their ideas. it seemed to me that they did. hopefully madværket can go further with the beginnings of ideas that were shared and begin to make a real difference for local food producers and consumers alike. i know i'd love to know that the beef (or pork or chicken) i buy was locally produced and i'd go out of my way to obtain it. we all have to start thinking more about the food we consume. the future of the planet may very well depend upon it.

this little savory "dessert" was served late in the day - tender, long-cooked strips of shredded beef and a savory, cool green ice cream. a twist on dessert and a festival of flavors that made me stop and think about what i was eating. we all need more of that in our lives.

* * *

marije vogelzang's dinner at spiers.
i so wish i were going.

* * *

stuck for what to read next?
this just might help.


rayfamily said...

You have had quite a few weeks! This sounds like an amazing experience. I am going to share it to a few of my fb friends. I wonder if we can start something like this event here....

It is interesting, maybe just my awareness/knowledge level is heightened, but I find that I can link information from many of our readings more and more in what is happening around us.

Laura Doyle said...

All those photos of that delicious making food has made me so hungry! Your even sounds like a lot of productive and creative fun and also like a good model for community interaction. I'd like to see something like that in my community.

It seems quite coincidental that this question of marketing wasted cuts of meat came up around the same time we've been reading Flap Food. As annoying as that book was, it is a very relevant subject. I recall the descriptions in Little House In The Big Woods of the hog butchering and processing. Not one bit of that pig was wasted.

My interest is piqued by the idea of a calf having an instagram account, but I can't say I know many people that would want to see their food while it was still alive. There seems to be a very obstinate separation in the minds of some people between the cute frolicking animal and the steak on the plate. A separation that they prefer. It's a cultural repression of sorts that I think early education on the matter would probably help a great deal.